Coordinating care for your loved one
If you’re helping a loved one who has medical issues, you quickly understand how essential it is for the medical specialists and the primary care provider (PCP) to share information with each other.
When all the providers have access to the same medical record—including test results, diagnoses, treatments, prescriptions and progress—they can see the full picture of your loved one’s health. And they can work as a team to make better recommendations for care.
But that’s not usually how it happens. Most often, the task of coordinating care falls to the patient—and the patient’s caregivers. Read on if you've become a caregiver and you’re considering taking on the job of coordinating care, or if you already have that role.
Caregiver as care coordinator
Hiring an independent case manager can help you coordinate your loved one’s care. But it’s expensive, so it may be more practical for you to do it yourself.
If you’re considering that option, here’s something you should know. Even if your loved one is getting care from the same medical group and the hospitals affiliated with it, providers may not be talking with each other. And you can’t be sure that linked electronic medical records are being shared and reviewed—unless you ask.
What to do
When you’re coordinating care, one of your goals—a very important one—should be to make sure everyone knows what’s going on. Medical providers, in-home care workers, long-term care staff, family and friends could be included, depending on the situation.
Here are some tips for staying organized and on top of your loved one’s care:
Find out who is involved in your loved one’s care already—PCP, medical specialists, personal care attendants, other in-home staff, etc.
- Confirm whether specialists are communicating back to the PCP. Don’t assume they are.
- Make sure your loved one is taking medications and taking them correctly.
- Establish a system to make sure you receive the information you need from providers, so you know what the doctors are saying and that your loved one understands what’s happening. I highly recommend going with your loved one to appointments as the best way to do this. While you don’t want to take away any privacy or independence, hearing information firsthand can avoid confusion.
If you want to talk to the medical providers directly, you must have your loved one’s permission in writing. This means your loved one must sign a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) form at each provider’s office. Your loved one’s health insurance company should also have documentation of your loved one’s permission for them to share information with you.